In the United States, anyone working in a food production or food processing facility is mandated to wear a hair restraint while working.
Nobody wants to see hair in their food, and all staff in food production positions should wear hair nets, bouffant caps, and/or beard snoods during every shift. The FDA’s 2013 Food Code requires food employees to wear “hats, hair coverings or nets, beard restraints, and clothing that covers body hair” at work.
Some employers dictate the length that facial hair can reach before triggering the beard net policy. At Whole Foods, for example, beards and mustaches that are shorter than a half-inch don’t require covering, but anything over that limit does (the FDA is uncharacteristically silent on the gray area between scruff and beard.)
Have it in mind that customers who find hair in their food are usually disgusted, and are less likely to return to that establishment. It is also a health code violation if hair restraints are not worn or if improper hair restraints are used.
Therefore, it is critical to understand the dangers hair can present as well as the best ways to prevent it from getting into the food you prepare or serve. Extensively understanding this simple topic can improve the food safety culture at your establishment.
Note that it is quite easier to prevent hair from getting into food than trying to repair any damage done because a hair restraint was not worn or improperly used. Hair can present a physical hazard, especially since it is usually unexpected. A physical hazard is an object that can cause your customers to choke or injure themselves.
Also, note that hair can be a biological hazard. It can have several types of pathogens on it, including Staphylococcus bacteria. This bacteria can cause foodborne illnesses that makes your customers sick. While it is normal to have these pathogens on your skin and hair, it is imperative to keep them out of the food.
According to the FDA Food Code, hair restraints including hair nets, baseball caps, or hats are acceptable to wear. The primary aim is to use a hair covering that will hold any dislodged hair in place so it doesn’t fall into food or onto equipment.
Hair restraints can also help keep you from touching your hair and contaminating your hands. There are many types of hair nets and baseball caps that can be used. If you choose to use a disposable hair net, be sure to throw it away once you are done or if it has a hole in it.
Meanwhile, keeping your hair restrained in good, clean condition is also necessary when it comes to food safety. Just like disposable gloves, disposable hair nets are meant for one use and should be discarded once you are done with them. If you have any questions about acceptable hair restraints, check with your local health department.
Other Workers Expected to Always Wear Hair Restraint
Aside from food handlers and workers in food-related establishments, these following workers are expected to always have or wear a hair restraint.
Depending on the substances involved in laboratory experiments or chemical manufacturing processes, hair and beard nets may be protective equipment. Aside from the fact they prevent human hair from contaminating samples, they can keep long hair from getting caught in rotating equipment.
A good number of laboratories in the United States require hair restraints for lab workers. Montana State University’s Laboratory Biosafety Manual even lists hair nets among the personal protective equipment that may be required before staff can enter the lab.
2. Manufacturing Workers at Electronics Plants
Have it in mind that electronics can be quite sensitive, especially during production. Tiny specks of dirt can be enough to disrupt computer components. Some manufacturers work only in designated clean rooms, which limit microparticles in the air. Clean room apparel often includes hair nets and beard covers. The common-sense rule is that if your product could be harmed by stray hair, have your employees cover up.
Basic Element of a Workplace Hair Restraint Program
Good hygiene keeps the hair clean, and it also provides a side benefit. Washing the hair flushes out loose hairs that have fallen out. The next step is to ensure that the workforce properly contains the hair. Note that it is always up to the establishment to provide the garments (hair restraints and sleeves), and to make sure that the workers understand why it is important to wear them. Hair restraints come in many names, sizes, colors, and formats. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.
Hair restraints go by many titles. They may be called “hairnets,” “bouffant,” or something else.
Note that format means weaves or apertures. There are hair nets that have a very fine weave with extremely small apertures (< 1/16 inch) and those with coarse weaves (1/4 inch or more). The smaller the aperture, the greater the probability hair will be properly restrained and contained.
This is indeed an important consideration. Among the colors offered by most suppliers are white, blue, green, red, orange, pink, and yellow. A business establishment should choose a hair restraint that will allow management to determine, at a glance, that the hair restraint is being worn properly.
Note that this is why black or brown hair restraints are a bad idea; it is really hard to see whether someone with dark hair is wearing their hairnet properly. Some suppliers also offer hairnets and bouffant caps in different colors so that a business can color-coordinate its work zones and prevent cross-contamination.
How beard and mustache restraints are worn is tend to be a crucial issue that must be addressed. Some businesses try to establish policies that define the size or configuration of mustaches and whether a restraint is required (for example, “If the mustache does not go below the top lip, no restraint is required.”) If a man wishes to sport a beard or mustache, he will have to wear a restraint of some sort.
The next and one of the core elements in building a program for restraining hair is to properly educate the workforce on how to wear the gear and to make certain that supervisors are overseeing proper use. The basic rules are:
- Hair nets should cover the hair and the ears.
- All hair should be restrained within the net.
- Hair restraints must be worn by every worker entering the processing area, even those workers with shaved heads.
- No exceptions.
Education is the key and when hiring new employees, personal hygiene and how to properly wear uniforms and hair restraints are expected to be part of the orientation process. If your workforce includes employees who don’t speak English well, make sure your training and materials are bilingual.
The subject of hygiene and hair restraints should be addressed during yearly refresher training sessions. Furthermore, it is a good idea to post pictures that show the right and wrong ways to wear a hair net, snood, and sleeves, if they are required.